THE TIME OF DOROsteemCreated with Sketch.

in #life3 years ago (edited)

Once upon a time….

Well, maybe not that long ago, but certainly before last month, I had just volunteered for the U.S. Air Force after high school. One of the first things we did during the first week was to take interest and aptitude tests that would largely determine who what we would be during our enlistment. Results would be revealed after training.

After the two months of basic training in the miserably hot June and July sun that baked Lackland AFB, near San Antonio, Texas, I was sent to The USAF Technical Training Command, at Keesler AFB, on the outskirts of Biloxi Mississippi.

I was, it seemed, going to be trained as an electronics maintenance technician with a specialty in radar systems.

I could not have been happier if they had just made me a General! I was in heaven! I had been interested in radios and electronics all through high school and was fascinated by anything that plugged in and had vacuum tubes inside. In fact, I would order military surplus radio equipment (WWII vintage, and dirt cheap), disassemble it for the parts, and use them to build elementary circuits I had found in electronics magazines. Some of them worked and the rest were “learning experiences.” I had a short wave radio on my work table and listened to Radio Berne, Radio Monrovia, the BBC, Radio Quito, and Radio Moscow while I tinkered, so I was not actually “at home” most of the time.

Anyway, I was as happy as a clam. The tech school was 52 weeks long, eight hours a day, with weekends off. P.T. in the mornings, drill on Saturday morning, formation marching to the classroom area and back to the barracks after class, so it was routine military; just that my main duty was to learn all about electronics. Just think: an entire year of classroom instruction on how things worked!

I began class on July 20, 1960.


Me on the left

The classes were highly focused on theory and practice, so we learned electronics basics and then about the various circuits used in most equipment. All long with the classroom instruction, and usually in two and three-man teams, we had hands-on practice building simple and then increasingly more sophisticated electronic circuitry as the weeks passed. When things did not work, we had to fix it so it met requirements. That was all timed, and it was serious business, so we learned to work under pressure and to focus on the job without even knowing that was part of the training.

I was a voracious keeper of notes in class and I studied them at night, unlike some of the dunderheads who thought other things were more important (drinking, girls, girls, and drinking).

I was having fun learning and it was not work at all. My tech manuals and class notes were treasures since I had had almost no access to the details they contained (being from a small town with a small public library and it being way before the Internet). I kept the notes and still have them...just because.

Once the basic skills were in-hand, we began studying and working on actual equipment. Once we learned the theory of operation, we learned alignment procedures using the manufacturer’s technical manuals. For our final exams on each study topic, the instructor would put a very real problem in the equipment and the two-man team had to find and repair it.

Imagine the fear factor the first time when the new technician turns on a device with twenty vacuum tubes and a mass of parts in it and it simply sits there inert, dark, and cold! The clock is running and there is a non-functioning device the size of a large suitcase that has something wrong!

So, you just fix it!

In December, 1960 – on the 14th - I started the field level of classes and had a lot more informal time to do the required projects in learning how some of the classified devices worked internally. It was designed to be more like a real-world experience would be and I loved that, too. I spent time learning how Moving Target Indicators (MTI) and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) units worked and how repair and align them. Each study unit would begin with a week of classroom instruction and the rest would be hands-on. Learning was from interpreting the the block diagrams and wiring diagrams; something that would have been an alien language five months before. There was an instructor present to answer questions, but it was mostly left to us to learn using the mental tools we had acquired. And learn I did! It was almost like an intellectual surfing experience and I thrived on it.

Because of that change in status, I had weekends off and was no longer treated like a new recruit. That also resulted in an unintentional change in life: I went home for a weekend with Tim, one of my classmates who lived in not-far-away, Bay Minette, Alabama.

Tim had a sister.

That is where stories and lives sort of fall apart at times, or at least get sidetracked. One first look at his “Baby Sis”, as he called her, and I was gobsmacked!

Admittedly, I was from a small town, without worldly experience, and the only girls I had met from foreign lands (those outside my little town) were my cousins. “Baby Sis” was clearly not one of the domestic products I had grown up with!

Doro (Dorothy) was was barely eighteen and was as curious about me as I was about her. Tim’s local girlfriend spent all day Saturday and most of Sunday with us and we mostly sat outdoors and talked, and everything was wonderful. Tim was no more eager to leave his Sandy any more than I wanted to part from Doro, and we made it back to the base Sunday night with fifteen minutes to spare!

We went back again the next weekend. Doro was dressed like a girl for a date and looked even more attractive than the previous week. We talked and talked while her soft Southern accent and gentle manner straight out of Gone With The Wind actually made me forget (briefly) her pretty face and the way the right side of her mouth made a slight twitch when she said some words. Needless to repeat, but I was captivated.

For the first time in months, electronics mattered not at all to me. I thought of her most of the time. The little twitch of her mouth was endlessly captivating

Back on the Base, the last four months of training was on real, live radar systems of various kinds set up in a large aircraft hanger. Those were long range search radar sets with giant rotating antennas and each made up of a dozen large metal cabinets filled with electronics. Every morning upon arriving for class, the complex assembly would be turned off and would have four or more faults introduced that we had to find and correct before the shift ended.

When “faults” are introduced by a technician-turned-instructor, you can be sure that they could be very obscure and would take a variety of test equipment, tech manuals, and brain cells to locate. I was pretty good at that, too. I had developed the attitude that if it broke, I could fix it. And I could, too!

It was fun! Right down to the last day of class, it had been more like a vacation than an actual job.

Almost every weekend after that first meeting was spent in Southern Alabama with Tim and his family. I went to church with them Sunday mornings, had Sunday dinners with them and, since I was mooching on the family so often, I washed the dishes while Doro dried, giving their Mom a break she was not accustomed to. I liked her parents a lot. Nice people, they were. I felt like I was with family.

Our routine was to have Saturday nights out. That meant the four of us going to the A&W Root Beer drive-in, getting take-out, and driving five miles out into a forest to a State Forestry Department fire watch tower: one of those very tall towers that are used to discover forest fire's location. There was a long dirt road through the forest to it and a well-maintained area around it. We could climb to a platform at the third level and have our picnic and enjoy the silence and the evening together. The curfew for the girls always came too soon.

As the weather warmed in the early spring, Tim, Sandy, Doro, and I went to Tim’s family’s beach house on the outskirts of Gulf Shores, on the narrow peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico. That was acceptable because Tim and his sister were there together, said their parents.


Doro and me

Little did they know that Tim was not reliable when Sandy was present, and that Doro had no intentions of being chaperoned anyway.

It was hot, even for early springtime and everything changed. The beach was beautiful, there was no moon, and there was a blue luminescence in the breaking waves that made the night a memorable marker in my life.

There was also Doro.

There is a country music song these days entitled Strawberry Wine. It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it and it has become a soundtrack for that memory. Real tears; not just misty stuff. Real tears for the time of Doro when we were young and life was perfect and for a memory that remains still untold and untainted.

We had four weekends in Gulf Shores those last three months. Memories sweet like strawberry wine.

Tech school did not have a graduation ceremony of any sort. The last day was the last day. Friday. No fanfare; we just didn’t go back to class. I did get a signed document from the instructor certifying that I had met all course requirements. I stopped by the squadron Orderly Room and gave them to the Officer In Charge and he gave me the packet with my reassignment orders, travel papers and various other transfer documents that included a three week annual leave approval.

I had almost nothing to pack and Tim and I left for Bay Minette that afternoon for what would be our last weekend together. On Saturday, Doro and I went for a long walk, had lunch together in town, and sat in a small park and talked. Most of the time, her eyes were filled with tears. We never once talked about parting. It was something neither wanted to happen and was beyond words. Instead, we let the day be one of sadness, and an even more endearing closeness.

That night we left Tim at Sandy's house and parked at the A&W so we would have distractions to keep the sadness away. It was almost like waiting for a death.

On Sunday morning, Doro drove me down to Mobile to the bus station. We stood, embracing, and I could feel her quietly sobbing. We must have talked, but I don’t remember. All I do remember about those moments is her soft, Southern sweetness. Passion had been replaced by sorrow.

There had been no promises. She would be leaving home in a few weeks to begin a new life as a student at the University of Alabama. After my leave, I would be reporting to the Alaskan Air Command and going to a remote radar site overlooking the Yukon River in the middle of the state.

We knew summer had ended.

~ finis ~

The images are mine.

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This is probably one of the best stories that I have ever read. I have just followed you as I can't miss any other stories from you. I love how real you are. You are sharing your REAL story. No exaggeration, just pure memories and feelings.

I can imagine how happy you were when you got to study what you loved. And it's so cool that you kept those notes. I'm sure they became your treasure.

And what a love story! It makes me think of a movie. I don't know what happened to Doro and I don't know if you're still together but I'm sure that you will treasure these memories forever. She was a stunning young girl. And you were a handsome young man ;)

Those old photos are beautiful. I wish I would have more photos made from my childhood. My parents didn't have much money so there are not that many photographs of us. It's a pity as there is something magical about old photos...

Thank you for sharing your story. It's beautiful..

Thank you for the best compliment I have received on anything I have written, Martina! It was so nice of you to take the time do do that...it made my day!

The color photos were scanned from old 35mm Ektachrome slide film. I really wish the colors had held up better; they obviously are of great value to me. I'm the same way about old photos. My family didn't have the money, either, and there are far too few photos of my childhood. I still have their old Kodak 120 box camera my Dad made the first photo of me with! Photos are wonderful tools for memory-jogging and helping with recall. Imagine having had a smart phone when we were kids!

Funny, too: the photos of me in uniform and the one with Doro are the only ones of me that I like.

I'm working on another story that has mention of Doro. The future shall reveal!

I added you to my Follow list. Being a vegetarian for the past 47 years, that's always interesting to me. Plus, you live in an exceedingly beautiful country!

It's good to meet you!

Will

Really? I'm so happy to hear that! BUT it is not difficult to write something nice about such a great quality post :)

Wow! It looks like you have a great family treasure! I wish there would be such things from my family but my dad liked so sell everything we had to clean his loans.. long story..

I wonder how we would use it. Would we use it wisely or like kids nowadays who play games, update their FB, IG or work on any other social media? I'm not that sure. I'm not into social media at all but I don't know how a child feels if she/he gets such a powerful tool to 'play with'.

Is it because you don't like to see yourself on photos or because those photos were just not good? :)

Thank you for the follow! I've been vegan for 2 years only and I can say that it was the best decision that I've ever made. Oh yes, I do - Switzerland is amazing. I would wish there would be more weekends so that I can see lot more of this country :)

It's nice to meet you too!

PS: I'm looking forward to reading your next story about Doro ;)

Have a nice day Will!

Martina

Ahh.. another warm missive from Martina! I love long replies.

Actually, the old camera looks terrible because they were the first mass-produced cameras and are very simple boxes with a lens and shutter mechanism. It has sentimental value to me, of course. i have it in a box with the 35mm Nikon I bought exactly when the first digital cameras came out. After shooting three rolls of film, I put it away and it has been there for about 12 years or so. Another forgotten antique.

I wonder about the billions of photos being made now. Perhaps some will survive until the children are older if they keep backups, but most are interested in the present minute and tomorrow is some future fantasy when it comes to planning. By the time they reach maturity they will have such a backlog of photos going through the will be an insurmountable task. (And deleting vast amounts of them because they no longer have any meaning or are just plain embarrassing will further reduce the number.)

From the way most youth are now, caring about the past is not a high priority. For some of us, the past is rich in memory and every shred of reminder becomes important to us.

When I look at photos of myself, I always feel like the image cannot be of me because it does not match my perception of myself. Another hint is that there have been very few taken of me, also telling me that I'm not quite up to par on the photogenic scale.

Writing for Steemit has increased my interest in writing about memories and I have far more I want to write than I have time available for creative writing. It seems that outdoor chores will remain increasingly visible until someone gets outdoors and does them. It's hard to be creative when feeling an increasing guilt for sitting and typing when I could be outdoors in the cold, raking up leaves and two dozen other things.

Thank you for connecting. That's the best part of writing for me!

Will

As captivating as ever, @willymac. You have life stories that everyone (in their right mind) will enjoy. The mixing of a love for electronics and their repair with the love of a young woman—perfect.

I have to say, though, with this one and the previous one you wrote a while back where it was the girl that left—you seem to have a bittersweet relationship with girls up to this point. Better than no relationship like I had for all of my teenage years and earliest twenties. Then I got married! :)

I really did enjoy reading this. I hope you enjoyed another walk down memory lane. Kudos, too, on the curie. As always, you earned it. :)

Thank you, Glen. Notice by you is always heartwarming. Writing about that time in my life was harder than I had thought. It recalled unused memories and they flushed out more of the minutiae around the time and place. It was hard leaving them out but I didn't want them to distract from Doro. It is indeed a lovely memory for me...kind of like remembering when I could fly in my dreams.

It has been a strange set of circumstances in my relationships: all broken for a different category of causes. How can I learn anything from that? It was not Shirley's fault. It was Doro's and my fault and in others, it was clearly her fault. At least there is variety in my past; both sweet and painful.

Very busy here lately and not nearly enough quiet time to be creative. Some people just have to have a drink, but I just need to write. Time is flying by and there are stories to be told. Do you ever feel that way?

Oh, yes, @willymac. All the time. Constantly. They just aren't stories of my life, but fictional ones that keep vying for attention. It's actually kind of frustrating really, that I can't seem to get them out and then live off of their earnings. There's always an obstacle or another step. Get through those, there's another. More than half my life has been like that. I'm still trying, but as you say, eventually time will run out. :)

Doro sure was a beautiful young lady and you were quite a good looking guys back then (well, you still are), it is hard to believe you were a bit of a shy guy back then (or was it when you were still younger?) I guess you lost contact with her brother too after leaving...

I kept the notes and still have them...just because.

You know, my Dad too still has his notes from secondary school and university (okay, not him but it still is in the house). He would always encourage me to keep mine, well, he used to help me keep mine, I have grown to learn to keep them though. I used to wonder why I had to do that but every time I go through those notes, and see some of those things I have written (inside the book and even at the back of it) it does bring memories, especially my failed attempts at practicing art during a boring class....😄😄😂

This is definitely a beautiful memory just so sad that your last day with Doro was a sad one.

Thank you for reading it, Bitsy! Yes, when I look at the photo of those two young people they do make a good match...and they did in more ways than one, but it is a bit hard to really put myself back in that situation. Yes, it was me, and I did have the experiences but it was so long ago it is more a dream than something that happened. Slowing time down and remembering it so I could write brought back a lot of related memories and I do not know why the last day was so sad. I know we let it be that way for a reason. I think we were subconsciously winding down from a peak life experience to ease the transition by grieving for what was.

I'm glad you kept reminders of your schooling and writing. They do make important connectors to the past and will always help fill in blank spots in your memory (if you have such things). I found a girl's name written during boredom-induced scribbling in the margin of a book. Her name embellished eight times. Nice, but I do not remember who the name goes with!

Oh, I heard about Tim years later. He had been injured in an accident and left the Air Force. No other details, though.

I loved your "swing" story. I hope you are working on another!

Yeah, looking at those two, I could see the tender and loving looks in their eyes. But now, I think you and Swan look even better. I am glad that you were able to live those dreams and that at some point it was a reality. I sure will love to live that kind of a dream. I don't have such bittersweet memories just yet, I guess I am yet to live them.

Hahahahah! You really don't remember who the name goes with? I guess it was just written out of boredom or maybe the hands just wanted to do what they wanted. Lol! Its crazy how you will wanna "crack" your brain sometimes to remember something, hopefully, you will, someday.

Sad to hear about Tim's accident. I guess it had to keep up with friends as we grow.

I am glad you loved it, I will try and work on another.

Hi willymac,

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Hi @willymac!

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Thank you, Steem-ua!

Makes me feel as if I was there great post!!!

Thank you for that compliment. That's been in my "memory box" for a long time and the details came back.

Makes me feel as if I was there great post!!!

Hi there, it was not hard actually to find you in between the two guys in the picture, You look almost the same

I am the same! Not a day of age on me, not a wrinkle, and as spry as ever! I am even better at lying, so something must have changed.

haha this made me laugh, you are good at it :)
good to see you after quite a long, I don't really see you on weku even.

Great story! Pleasant memories are very good!